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Friday, April 27, 2007 - Page updated at 02:02 AM

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Asian Hall of Fame inducts Olympian Ohno

Seattle Times staff reporter

Press conferences can be boring affairs. But not when the press is gathered in front of Apolo Anton Ohno.

Are you seeing anyone?

"Noooo," Ohno said.

"Single." And he traced an "S" in the air.

Ohno is both a famous Olympic athlete and famous TV star, currently appearing on "Dancing With The Stars."

But he remains Seattle's hometown hero, and the local Asian community, in particular, has always held him close. Ohno is half Japanese.

So it was a given that local Asians, when creating an Asian Hall of Fame in 2004, would one day salute the speed-skating champion.

That day arrived Thursday — Ohno reportedly arriving via Rolls-Royce in Seattle's Chinatown/International District, where he held court.

He stood in the Asian Resource Center, where a framed image of him will hang soon.

Robert Chinn, founder of the United Savings & Loan Bank in Seattle, the first Asian-American-owned bank in the U.S., built this building. And thus far, the other luminaries shown here include former Gov. Gary Locke and sculptor George Tsutakawa. Loida Nicholas Lewis, attorney and chair of TLC Beatrice, also was inducted Thursday.

But the media spotlight beamed brightly on Ohno and Ohno beamed back, saying he felt humbled by the honor. He saluted his father, Yuki Ohno, who sat in the audience, also beaming. "My life has always been about hard work, dedication and sacrifice," he said.

Ohno's commitment to speed skating is so strong that he's traveling with John Schaeffer, his strength and conditioning coach/nutritionist.

Ohno, who lives in Colorado, is staying in Los Angeles, where "Dancing" is filmed. Schaeffer has followed him there, too.

Ohno spends two to three hours daily training for the 2010 Winter Olympic, and an additional four to six hours practicing his dance routines.

Initially, he didn't realize how much of a commitment dancing would require and how much attention and "buzz" would come his way because of the show. Among the offers that have arrived: movie scripts.

No, dancing won't likely help his skating. No, the dancing doesn't come easy. Yes, he loves Seattle.

"I won't say I miss the rain. I miss the summers, the people, the culture. And the actual change that's going on downtown. I plan to be here when I'm done skating."

Because he's committed to the TV show, Ohno also arrived home — and to the press conference — with his TV dance partner, Julianne Hough.

The pair spent eight hours Wednesday rehearsing the fox trot and the mambo, and at the media's request, they danced some mambo Thursday.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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